How to Use Crowdshaping

Feedback is an invaluable tool in the hands of an event organizer. Unfortunately, feedback is typically unavailable until after a conference is finished, when the unforgettable moments—yes, even the ones you’d rather forget—are sealed in participants’ minds. Imagine if you could receive feedback in real time, having the luxury of making adjustments to enhance participants’ experience and deal with annoyances and distractions as they occurred. What you’re imagining is now a reality, thanks to experiential marketing agencies and technology. The phenomenon is called crowdshaping. Organizers at Cisco, Nissan, Pepsi and other major corporations have leveraged crowdshaping to finesse both logistics and mood at events. Traffic Flow Cisco leveraged crowdshaping to monitor traffic at its Global Sales Experience meeting in August 2014, working with marketing agency George P. Johnson. GPJ installed speed and geolocation sensors on shuttle buses transporting 18,000 participants between the main session and breakout session venues. This allowed organizers to dispatch new buses as needed, and attendees could anticipate wait times, as the data was displayed on a screen in the venues. Cisco and GPJ also monitored foot traffic inside the venues using crowdshaping. This enabled them to modify capacity and seating arrangements in breakout rooms as they tracked which sessions drew crowds first. The same technology helped the organizers determine when to open new food lines in the concession area. Using crowdshaping to monitor traffic—on foot or on the road—allows planners to detect and address bottlenecks. In addition to traffic adjustments like the ones Cisco made, being armed with this data could help you determine which doors to open and which way to flow the escalators at what times, identify how many visitors each exhibitor received and track retention rates after sessions. Entertainment  Using crowdshaping can ensure an event’s entertainment has the desired effect on its audience. Event tech company Lightwave has developed technology to track attendees’ physical responses via wristbands with four sensors. These sensors monitor: 1. The wearer’s movement (Is he dancing? Shifting in his seat from boredom?) 2. Sound 3. Sweat and arousal through skin response 4. Body and room temperature Each of these elements can be addressed by making changes in the environment (adjusting the thermostat) and stimuli (changing the band’s set list). Pepsi partnered with Lightwave and DJ A-Trak at a concert in March 2014, distributing wristbands to gauge the energy level of the crowd and inform the DJ of his next move. A leaderboard in the room displayed which guests were dancing the most, which encouraged movement and participation. Organizers also tweaked lighting in the room to alter the mood based on the energy level they perceived through the wristbands. Bioreactive feedback like this can be helpful for any kind of conference presentation, from a comedy performance to a keynote address. Tracking physical responses equips organizers with data that is far more accurate than a post-event survey or social media. Crowdshaping can be leveraged to provide instantaneous feedback on both practical and experiential elements of an event. The data it provides is helpful in the moment as well as for planning future gatherings, as hard facts can prove popularity of anything from speakers to beverage vendors. Crowdshaping could be the tool you need to avoid a pitfall during your next event. Leigh Jackson Harper is a communication and event specialist. Follow her on Twitter, @leighstweets.